You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today

~ Abraham Lincoln

Do you find yourself struggling for time?  Do you feel you have too much to do and there is hardly any time?  Do you feel your ‘to do’ list never ends?  Do you feel the moment you finish one thing, there is something else that needs your attention, something already waiting for you to be catered to next? You plan to do something but end up doing something else?  You find it hard to stick to routine/schedule?  Do you end up getting distracted easily and get overwhelmed and exhausted? 

Ahhh…. If the answer to most of above is YES, Procrastination might be something that you are struggling with which brings us to the question what is Procrastination???

Procrastination is the act of delaying or postponing a task or set of tasks. It is the force that prevents us from following through on what we set out to do.  Procrastination is the habit of delaying an important task, usually by focusing on less urgent, more enjoyable, and easier activities instead.

Let us dive deeper into the psychology of procrastination.  Procrastination is derived from a latin word which is –Pro – means ‘forward’ & Crastinus – means ‘of tomorrow’

A procrastinator moves things forward, to the next minute, next hour, next day, the day after and so on.  It is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones. 

Procrastination is something that we end up doing occasionally but not everybody is a procrastinator.  The trouble emerges when, overtime, procrastination turns into a habit.  Habits are nothing but repeated unconscious patterns of behaving, thinking and feeling.  

The consequence of procrastination is truly unpleasant, it may lead to –

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Increased Stress
  • Feeling behind
  • Running against time
  • Lack of energy to start
  • Feelings of hopelessness/helplessness
  • Self-doubt
  • Insecurities about our own abilities
  • Chronic anxiety/depression

Why do we still Procrastinate?  Simply because the moment we procrastinate and pend something for future, it gives us a temporary relief & relaxation.

4 TYPES OF PROCRASTINATION

  1. OVERDOER – They take on too much on their hand.  They have unrealistic expectations, they have so much to achieve, and thus they have unrealistic goals.  They end up scheduling more work than is possible which ends up in them not having enough time for daily routines even.    The classic ‘over-doer’ belief around procrastination is “If I don’t accomplish all of this, then I’m not good enough”.  The fear of not living up to their own impossible standards causes them stress and anxiety, which some people then deal with by procrastinating.  This can further lead to feeling of burnout, guilt, self-doubt, and lack of confidence.

How To Overcome It

“Un-schedule” is the key here. This method involves filling the schedule with rest and fun activities before scheduling the day. For example, if one typically finds oneself browsing through social media for 20 minutes, add this into the schedule and plan work around that. This scheduled downtime or fun will prevent one from over-scheduling and overwhelming oneself.

  • ‘PLEASURE/FUN’ PROCRASTINATION – These people think there are so many fun and exciting things in life that one can do instead of essentials.  The pleasure/fun procrastinator would prefer to be doing anything else as opposed to the actual task at hand.

How To Overcome It

One can attempt method called as “structured procrastination”. By starting a different task on the to-do-list, one has already given less priority to that project one has been dreading, and yet in the meantime, one is still being productive with one’s time. It’s a win-win.   If one is going to procrastinate anyway, so why not do so by tackling something else on the to-do list rather than online browsing?

  • ‘PERFECTIONIST’ PROCRASTINATION – These people have very high standards set for themselves.  They want to do everything in the most perfect way.  For perfectionists, the fear of failing or producing work to a low standard, can be so overwhelming they never actually get around to starting anything.  The typical perfectionist belief might sound something like “If I don’t do the task extremely well then I’m a failure”.   The perfectionist begins procrastinating when becoming overwhelmed with the fear of producing work of a low standard, or fear of failing. 

How To Overcome It

Procrastination can be considered a good thing for perfectionists as long as they have a lot of time to complete a task, they fantasize about doing the perfect job. Leaving it to the last minute is a way of permitting oneself to do a merely adequate job which is the need. One way to assist perfectionists from procrastinating, is to identify each time they didn’t do ‘the perfect job’, yet the consequences were the same as if they would have.

  • ‘PLENTY OF TIME’ PROCRASTINATION –  These are people who think they have plenty of time to finish a task or to achieve almost everything.  These are people who see the deadlines placed in future.  They choose to engage in activities that are more rewarding in the short-term believing that there is plenty of time.  They chose to put off tasks for days and weeks.  

How To Overcome It

By setting deadlines and publicly announcing them, one is generally much more likely to complete the task, and even execute it well. If you are one of the types, try telling your co-workers, family, and friends when setting deadlines. This form of public commitment is likely to motivate you to meet your deadlines and keep you on track.

3 STRATEGIES TO MANAGE PROCRASTINATION

  1. Where is your focus?  –  Identify the Rocks, Pebbles and Sand in your life –  OurROCKS in life represent things that are most meaningful to us, gives us pleasure, happiness, joy, sense of accomplishment, purpose.  PEBBLES are the smaller task that we accomplish on daily basis to keep life running and going.  SAND represents the tasks that we feel that we are seemingly busy with throughout the day, distractions that take our attention away from the big rocks.  We resort to these distractions to feel better & relaxed but in doing so all the rocks of our life get totally missed out.

Identifying what is taking up most of the space in our life is most crucial.    We must ask ourselves – what are we busy with, filling up the jar with sand or rocks or pebbles?  If we fill our life with sand and small pebbles, there is no space for rocks.  If we spend all the time on the small and insignificant things, we will soon run out of room for the things that are important for us. 

  • Manage the ‘Instant Gratification Monkey’ –  In our minds, there is arational decision maker which suggests that we do things that make sense and think long-term.  Rational mind actually is the driver until this Gratification Monkey takes over and suggests that tasks can be postponed, and one can resort to fun activities instead like watching TV, online shopping, going out with friends etc. 

Rational Decision Maker = Adult who acts based on reality principle

Instant Gratification Monkey = Distracted child based on pleasure principle

Question here should be WHO SHOUD BE IN-CHARGE?

  • CATEGORIZATION OF TASKS –  All tasks can be divided into two parts – The URGENT and the IMPORTANT.  The urgent are not important, and the important point to note here is that important tasks should never become urgent. 

Urgent Tasks – are things that you feel like you need to react to immediately.

Important Tasks – are things that contribute to our long-term mission, values and goals.

TIPS FOR PROCRASTINATORS

Fortunately, there are many things one can do to avoid procrastination –

  • Make A To-Do List : Will help keep one on track, place a due date next to each item.
  • Take Small Steps : Break down the to-do list into small, manageable steps so that tasks don’t seem so overwhelming.
  • Recognize The Warning Signs :  If one begins to think about procrastinating, force oneself to spend a few minutes working on the task.
  • Eliminate Distraction : Ask what pulls the attention away the most and turn off those sources of distraction.
  • Reward Yourself. : When a task gets completed on time, congratulate and reward by indulging in something appealing.  

Coming out of the procrastination trap isn’t easy.  The urge to put things off can be strong, especially when there are so many entertaining distractions.  While procrastination might not be something one can avoid entirely, becoming aware of the reasons why one procrastinate and how to overcome those tendencies can help.

A man who procrastinates in his choosing,

will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstances.

~ Hunter S. Thompson

DR. NEETA PANT
Senior HR Professional, Clinical Psychologist, 
Executive Life Coach, Soft Skills trainer, Graphologist, NLP Practitioner & Hypnotherapist

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